How to Take Advantage of Google+ Messaging

Google Plus

I’ve been using Google+ since about day 2 of the limited field trial and in that time I’ve noticed that most people, even many of the geeky tech-oriented people, don’t quite get the finer points of messaging yet. It’s time to correct that.

One of the biggest complaints about communicating on Google+ I hear is “Why can’t I send a message to just my friend?” or “Why can’t I send a direct message like on twitter?” or worse, “Why do I have to create a circle with just my friend in it to send a message to him?”

The answer to the first two questions is “You can,” and to the last, “You don’t have to do that.” Let’s look at how.

Add More People

Add More PeopleThe key to it all is that “+ Add more people” link. Note the wording – it is pretty specific. It allows you to add more people, NOT just more circles!

By default your shares will be posted to Public, but if you want to change that, click the X next to Public. That will remove the Public circle from your To-list.

Add More Circles or PeopleNow your post won’t be shared publicly. However you can’t share it like this because it won’t go anywhere; you do of course need a To-list, just like any messaging service.

If I wanted to send a private message just to our own Cali Lewis, I can just click the now-renamed “+ Add circles or people to share with…” link and start typing her name.

Selecting a person to send to.A drop down helps narrow your search down to the person you’re looking for. (Yes, Cali has two accounts. If you want to Encircle her on G+, you want this one. She doesn’t use the other.) Once you’ve selected the individual you want to share with, of course you need something to share.

Sending to an IndividualNow the message is all ready to share if I want. But notice that the link has changed again. Now it says “+ Add more people.”

Sending to more than one individual, without circles.Now I’m sending directly to both Cali and Pelpina, our awesome WebBeat.TV host. But maybe this is something I think should go to all my fellow Livid Lobster folk.

Sending to Individuals and CirclesNow I’m sharing with the entire Livid Lobsters circle. Notice how circles are marked with a… well, a circle so you can tell the difference between them and individuals at a glance.

This is an enormous amount of flexibility that’s being given to us with Google+ messaging, far more than you can accomplish on Twitter. You can do something similar on Facebook, but if you think it’s obscure HERE, you haven’t seen Facebook Groups.

A few things to note about this messaging system:

  • You can share to individuals even if they have not encircled you. This will cause them to be notified of your message. Do not abuse this! It’s a great way to get yourself blocked. Hopefully Google will fix this.
  • There is currently no special interface area for seeing messages that are directly sent just to you. This is something Google is aware of and will likely fix in the future; this is pre-beta after all.
  • You can mix and match individuals and circles in your to-list as much as you need to.
  • The mobile Google+ apps for Android, and the new iPhone one, support this type of messaging, but also feature Huddles, which is basically group SMS. This How-To only covers the standard share-and-comment messaging system.
  • Much like Twitter, you can use +UserName (for instance, +Gord McLeod) to mention someone in a Share. Doing so adds them to the To-list automatically.
  • Even more like Twitter, Google+ supports the @UserName convention as well.

Happy messaging!


  1. says

    Thank you Rose! That’s awfully nice of you. The +1 button is up at the very top of the page, just under the name of the post and above the first image.

  2. says

    Thanks Gord Mcleod,I would like to add you to my tech-geek circle, If I say your first and last name maybe I will remember it. This article was helpful I appreciate your articulate writing and will read the other related posts on Google+messaging. I have a tech-geek circle that I will share your link in. Where is your +1 button I don’t see it here? I will link to you from my new website on e-learning.

    Thanks again,
    Rose Offner

  3. says

    I haven’t seen things like that, but I also don’t have any circles that are that specific. Many of the people I have on Google+ are in multiple circles, as well, and circles don’t equate perfectly to something like a mailing list – if you have a person in a circle, you see everything they share when you view that circle’s stream, whether it’s applicable to the label you put on the circle or not. Fine-tuning the use cases will take time. :)

  4. says

    I love having an alternative to Twitter and Facebook that allows me to post messages to specific people or groups, but I don’t think that has caught on with new users yet. I have added people to circles based on their interests. For example, I have a EdTech circle for people I want to discuss EdTech topics with. I only added people who said they were interested in discussing this topic in a circle. Now that those people have added me to their G+ circles, I’m getting all sorts of posts about how they spent their weekend and what they think of current political issues. Nothing about EdTech. So, they, in return, didn’t put me in an EdTech circle.

    I’m being patient because I know people are just learning G+ along with me. I’ve started to make a few, polite comments about how it’s important to thoughtfully consider who your posts go to and not to be tempted to send every thought out to every person. When people don’t get it, I drop them from my circle.

    Are you seeing the same pattern with people who are new to G+? Since having circles was the major feature that drew me to G+, I don’t quite get why people aren’t using it, but, as I said, I’m being patient. 😉

  5. says

    Also… you can click on the down triangle in the upper right of the post once it’s created and disable re-shares so the person you are sending it to cannot re-share it. Although I guess they could just copy and paste it… :)

  6. says


    Good write up. Even I was a little befuddled by this and was being to lazy to go figure it out…

    Very clearly put… must share!


  7. Paul says

    Before I can use this wonderful suggestion, I have to get a G+ account activated. How do I do that?

    • says

      Give your gmail address to someone who has an account already and they’ll be able to invite you in with it. Invitations have been open for a while now. :)

  8. Josh says

    Good write up. Don’t forget, if you use “+name”, where name is the person your trying to message, in the message itself it will add that person to the list automatically. This is similar to using “@name” on Twitter.